The phrases, “God told me…” or “I believe God wants me to…” are not uncommon words which we hear many Christians claim today (and perhaps even ourselves at times). The question we must ask ourselves before coming to any conclusion about hearing God’s voice is whether we are truly seeking to hear from Him or whether what it is we are desiring Him to say to us. Every believer at some point has experienced that they thought they heard God speaking to them, but in the end it was apparent that it was not really God’s voice they were listening too. Understanding how to effectively listen for and recognize the voice of God is vital for us as Christians in our daily walk. Without this, our relationship with Him becomes diminished.
Submission to His voice is the greatest lesson we can learn. We must be willing to lay down our dreams and desires for that of His, trusting in His perfect will for our lives. The Apostle Paul stressed this firmly to the church in Corinth when he said, “to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5)”. Another important lesson is to understand that God speaks to us in different ways; sometimes not in the way in which we would like Him to or think that He should.
One unique illustration which Loren Cunningham taught in his book, “Is that really you God?” Was the Axehead Principle. This is based on the account in 2 Kings 6. When Elijah asks the man whose axehead went into the water to point to where it had gone down, Elijah commanded the axehead to come up. In the same way, it is important for us to go back to the last time when we last heard the cutting edge of God’s voice. Remembrance of what He said and when He said will enable us to look back and see what God has done in and through our lives since we last heard His voice. When we understand the direction which He has taken us, it will help us better determine whether He is speaking to us.
Another important lesson is that God will use those whom He has placed in our paths to guide us when making certain decisions. This has been very beneficial in my own life as in during different seasons those who have been mentors, friends or family have said similar things to which God has laid on my heart. When a position came up within our church for a leadership position, I was praying and seeking guidance from the Lord to see whether I should pursue it or not. Without me saying anything to anyone, six people who were leaders within the church approached me separately without the others knowing and said they believed that the Lord was saying that I should take that position. For me, this was a solid confirmation of the direction which the Lord was wanting to lead me in.
At the same time, when we receive opposition from those around us about deciding to go in a particular direction, this can be another tool which God uses to test us to see if we will be obedient to His will or not. During the time that I believed that the Lord was guiding me into the direction of church leadership, I received opposition from family members who were not believers who claimed that it would be a waste of time and that there were many other things I could be doing with my life. In a way, this encouraged me to want to pursue my calling to ministry as I understood that this opposition was a method of spiritual warfare as a test to see if I would be obedient to the Lord in this area.
Finally and most importantly, in the end it is our friendship that we have with the Lord which will define how we interpret that it is truly Him speaking to us. Often, we tend to think of our relationship with God as one sided and that He is the one who is supposed to be in constant communication with us when instead He desires for it to be a mutual exchange of words. Sharing our lives with our best friend is what deepens and strengthens intimacy. As we develop this relationship, over time as we ask ourselves, “Is this you speaking to me God?”, the easier it is to interpret whether it is or not. If our hearts are in tune with His word, our ears will be also.